Special Education, Curriculum and Technology Budgets Highlight Summit Board Meeting

January 17, 2014 at 1:03 PM

SUMMIT, NJ—The proposed 2014-2015 school district budgets to finance special education, curriculum and technology were spotlighted on Thursday as the board of education continued its presentations of department spending plans.

Director of special services Jane Kachmar-Desonne led off, announcing an $11.9 million budget for special education that will encompass about 19 percent of the district budget, which is expected to exceed $61 million. Of that total, more than half, $6.5 million, is for instructional staff.

The bill for out-of-district placements is $2,309,908; that for related services such as speech, $699,964, and the child study team $1,367,963.

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Special service’s budgetary request has been increased from $10.6 million requested last year, the director said.

The department’s overall goal, she added, is to develop programs which educate its students in the least restrictive environment in the district so that they can remain in their home communities. 

Kachmar-Desonne noted that, of the 489 students in the program, only 33 currently are sent out-of-district because they have learning disabilities that cannot be handled within the Summit public schools.

Programs currently available in the Hilltop Ciry district include a pre-school program for the disabled, classes for the language learning disabled in kindergarten to second grade, third to fifth grades and sixth through eighth grades. There also is an autism program in the third to fifth grades and a similar program recently introduced into the sixth through eighth grades.

Kachmar-Desonne, in response to board member questions, also left open the possibility that the autism program could be extended to the secondary level. In addition, both she and superintendent of schools Nathan Parker said that Summit may offer the option for post-secondary special education students to take advantage of a program run through the Morris-Union Jointure through the Our House organization. If this is offered, they said, it will be done at no cost to the city district and could, in fact, bring extra income into the district.

The Summit district also offers its programs to students from other districts, Both Kachmar-Desonne and assistant superintendent for business Louis Pepe noted tuition from sending districts helps pay for teachers and aides in the city classrooms.

Kachmar-Desonne added that a total of $506,950 has been raised over the last several years from tuitions paid by sending districts to Summit. Figures include:

$46,764 in 2009-2010 for one student;

$42,563 in 2010-2011 for one student;

$40,418 in 2011-2012 for one student;

$85,136 in 2012-2013 for two students; and

$139,859 in the current school year for two students.

Another source of funds for the district, she said, is the Special Education Medicaid Initiative, through which federal grants come into Summit for economically-disadvantaged students whose parents consent to have information on their children provided to the state.

The proposed curriculum budget, which this year will account for about 1 percent of the total district spending plan, or $643,734, was presented by assistant superintendent of schools Julie Glazer.

She noted the proposal is up $188,612, or about 41.4 percent over last year—most of it due to the purchase from textbook accounts for new, expanding or improving programs. The largest amount—$174,543, is for a new mathematics program that will be introduced in kindergarten to fifth grade. This will be an increase of $155,468 over last year. 

Glazer noted the school district purchases an entire program—including teacher guides and other materials—not only textbooks—with a new course of study.

New textbooks for new or expanded programs in the ninth-to-12th grades will cost $50,550, rising by $37,700 from last year’s budget, Glazer said. New courses and improved course offerings include one in new media, a change in the physics program, and new texts for Spanish, government and politics and physics advanced placement classes.

A $33,790 increase—up to $191,120—in the budget for professional development led to questions from board members James Freeman and Edgar Mokuvos.

Glazer noted much of the professional development funding went to advance teachers involved in new programs, which led Freeman to question why, if private industry does not set aside resources to specifically train employees for every increase in responsibility, why this was being done in the public schools.

Glazer and board president Gloria Ron-Fornes explained that, even though Summit hires what it considers the “cream of the crop” in teachers, it still needs instruction to refresh and advance their course knowledge and teaching methods.

In addition to the above, Glazer is requesting $157,494 for supplies—a decrease from last year—and this year there is no request for equipment.

Some of the curriculum costs, she added are offset by significant grants from the Summit Education Foundation, totaling $768,000 last year, and by federal No Child Left Behind funds, which amounted to about $200,000 this year for economically-disadvantaged children.

The proposed technology budget, Glazer noted, for 2014-2015 will amount to about $1.4 million or about 2.3 percent of the district tab.

Of that total, $605,088 will go toward equipment, $252,694 for software, $191,367 for maintenance (supplies and training) and $245,000 for communications, about $70,000 of which will be offset by grants through the federal Erate program.

Planned purchases include $20,000 for continuation of security camera upgrades, $37,900 for upgrading of the network infrastructure, $33,999 for wireless system upgrades and $34,780 for classroom innovation thru used of Chromebooks.

Also, there will be a number of technology upgrades to deal with online testing under the PARCC program, due to be introduced during 2014-2015.

Glazer said that, as educational needs evolve within the rapidly-changing learning environment the district is improving its technology through investment in professional development consistent with identified focus areas to support student learning.

During the public comment portion of the meeting resident Lisa Hartman asked the board to again review its guidelines for class size, which set the limits at 22 to 24 students, in the light of technological and other educational advances.

In a presentation prior to the meeting, which was held at Lincoln-Hubbard School, students from the school introduced a school-produced i-movie about their “180 Days Around the World” program, which focuses on the languages, customs and various celebrations of  Lincoln-Hubbard students and their parents, whose origins go back to many countries from around the globe.

On another matter, Parker noted that the district has received more than 130 applications for its tuition-based fullday kindergarten option. He said a drawing in the lottery to select students for the currently-planned two sections will be held at 2:30 pm at the board offices in Wilson School and a decision on whether a third section will be needed will be made shortly thereafter.






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